Under-eye swelling is a common cosmetic concern. Puffiness after a late night, salty meal, or crying usually clears up within a day. Discharge, pain, and other severe symptoms warrant an appointment with an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The skin around your eyes is thin and delicate. Most people will experience under-eye swelling occasionally, and it will usually go away without treatment.

In some cases, under-eye swelling could indicate an eye infection or another underlying condition. Over-the-counter or prescription medication may be necessary to help soothe your symptoms.

Persistent “bags” may be caused by a combination of aging or genetics, which can weaken the tissue around your eyes. This can lead to fat moving into the lower eyelids, making them look swollen.

The underlying cause ultimately determines whether under-eye swelling or puffiness is temporary, as well as what can be done to help smooth the area.

Extra sodium can make your body retain water. The excess water causes puffiness in the face and body. This is especially common the morning after a salty meal.

The thin skin around your eyes is at higher risk of getting puffy. This leads to under-eye swelling or the appearance of under-eye “bags.” Your body will naturally eliminate the bloating and de-puff your eye area. This may take a few hours or longer.

Cut salt in your daily diet to help soothe under-eye swelling. Limit or avoid processed and packaged foods that have added salts. Drink plenty of water to help flush out the sodium.

Eating foods high in potassium also helps counter the salt. These include:

  • bananas
  • yogurt
  • potatoes
  • dried apricots

The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt a day. Most Americans eat more than double that amount of sodium every day.

Crying causes fluid to collect around your eyes, causing puffiness for a short time. Under-eye swelling that happens occasionally will likely go away on its own.

A research study found that not getting enough sleep can give you under-eye swelling. It can also cause droopy eyelids, red eyes, and dark circles under the eyes. Other signs are pale skin and a droopy mouth.

A lack of sleep can weaken the muscles around your eyes. It can also lead to a loss of collagen — the elastic tissue — under the eyes. This causes fluid to collect in the area, making the area beneath your eyes to swell up.

Under-eye swelling because of little sleep may last a few to 24 hours. Some signs can become permanent if you regularly have poor sleep. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

Allergies can cause fluid to build up in your sinuses and around your eyes. This can lead to under-eye swelling.

An allergic reaction can also make your eyes red, itchy, and watery.

Common allergens include:

  • pollen
  • dust
  • mold
  • smoke
  • pollution
  • dander
  • animal fur
  • chemicals
  • perfume

Avoid allergens as much as possible to help prevent symptoms. Using a Neti pot to clear your sinuses and artificial tear eye drops to rinse your eyes also helps.

Over-the-counter medications can help ease under-eye swelling. Try:

  • antihistamines (Claritin, Benadryl)
  • decongestants (Sudafed, Afrin)
  • eye drops (Visine, Alaway)

A healthcare professional may also prescribe a steroid or an allergy shot to make you less sensitive to the allergen.

Smoking cigarettes, shisha, or cigars can irritate your eyes. You may also have an allergic reaction if you’re around secondhand and even thirdhand smoke. This can make your eyes water, triggering under-eye swelling.

Quit smoking of any kind and avoid secondhand smoke to help prevent eye puffiness and other symptoms.

Clean surfaces and items in your home and car if you’re sensitive to leftover smoke particles. Wash your hair and clothing after being around people who smoke.

An eye infection can cause under-eye swelling in one or both eyes. You can have an infection in the eye or eyelid. The infection and swelling will usually happen in one eye first but can quickly spread to the other eye.

Avoid touching or rubbing your eye. An eye infection usually goes away within a week. You may need antibiotic treatment.

Types of eye infections that can cause under-eye swelling include:

  • Pink eye: Also known as conjunctivitis, this infection may be caused by bacteria, a virus, chemicals, and other irritants. Pink eye can happen at any age.
  • Stye: A stye is an infection in an eyelash follicle or a tear gland. It usually begins as a tiny, small bump along your lash line. A stye can lead to redness, swelling, and pus in the eye or eyelid.
  • Chalazion: A chalazion is similar to a stye, and it’s caused by a blocked oil gland in your eyelid. A chalazion usually looks like a small bump on the eyelid. It can lead to swelling if it gets infected.
  • Periorbital cellulitis: This infection or inflammation around your eye usually spreads from the sinuses. It can also happen from a scratch or injury to the eyelid and often requires medical attention.

You can relieve swelling and tenderness around your eye with a damp, clean towel. If you suspect an infection, seek medical attention as soon as possible. You may need antibiotics or other treatments to soothe the pressure.

Your tear ducts drain away tears and natural water in the eye. If they’re blocked, the fluid may collect around the eye. This can lead to under-eye swelling.

A blocked tear duct is common in babies, but it can happen in children and adults, too. A blockage can happen due to an infection, makeup particles, or an injury to the eye. In most cases, it clears up on its own after a few days.

Normally, a warm compress and washing out the eye with sterile saline help clear the blockage. In more serious cases, you may need treatment. In adults, a blocked tear duct can sometimes happen because of a tumor.

Signs and symptoms of a blocked tear duct include:

  • excess tearing or watery eyes
  • blurred vision
  • redness
  • eye infection or inflammation
  • pain
  • swelling
  • crusting
  • pus or mucus

A small scratch or nick around the eye can happen from a fingernail or a makeup brush. An injury can lead to under-eye swelling as your body heals the thin, soft skin in the eye area.

Getting hit on or around the eye can also cause puffiness. A blow from a punch or a dull object causes the eye to move down slightly and then back in place. This brings blood rushing into the area. The blood and fluid trigger swelling or bruising beneath the eye.

Graves’ disease is also called thyroid eye disease. It typically happens when your thyroid gland does not balance thyroid hormones.

Graves’ disease can cause changes in the tissue around the eyes. Other eye signs and symptoms include:

  • gritty sensation
  • pain or pressure
  • redness
  • light sensitivity
  • double vision
  • blurred vision or vision loss

Eye and vision changes, including under-eye swelling, may signify mononucleosis. This infection is sometimes called the “kissing disease,” but you can also catch it from sneezes and coughs.

Eye symptoms include:

  • redness
  • pain
  • swelling
  • seeing “floaters

A virus causes mononucleosis. Antibiotics won’t help to treat it. Signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • swollen tonsils
  • swelling in the neck and armpits
  • skin rash

How do you treat swollen under-eyes?

In most cases, under-eye swelling goes away on its own. Whether or not you need treatment depends on the cause. A healthcare professional may prescribe:

  • anti-allergy medication
  • oral antibiotic or antiviral medication
  • antibacterial ointment
  • antibacterial eye drops
  • steroid eye drops

Can you use home remedies to treat swollen under-eyes?

Try one of these home remedies to help your eyes bounce back after a late night, salty meal, or a bout of crying:

  • Cold compress: Apply a clean, wet washcloth to your eye area. Or chill a spoon in the fridge and use the back of the spoon to massage the area gently. You can also keep your eye cream or serum in the fridge and apply it as a cooling gel.
  • Tea bags: Tea contains caffeine, which may help draw water out of your under-eye area and bring down swelling. Try soaking two tea bags in cold water. Place them over your closed eyes and lay back for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Facial massage: Use your fingers or a cold metal facial roller to massage your face. Gently massage or tap around your eyes and sinuses to help drain away extra fluid.

What causes puffy bumps under the eyes?

Puffy, white, or skin-colored bumps under the eye are often milia. This so-called “chicken skin” can develop when protein (keratin) is trapped under the skin.

Puffy, red bumps under the eye may be chalazion, which occurs when an oil (sebaceous) gland is blocked by debris.

What causes swelling under only one eye?

If only one eye is experiencing swelling and other symptoms, it’s likely the result of an eye infection. It’s important to make an appointment with an eye doctor to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.

It’s important to seek medical attention if you have swelling around your eyes that lasts longer than 1–2 days.

Although some eye infections can resolve without treatment, more severe infections can cause long-term complications if left untreated.

Seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • blurry vision
  • fever
  • hallucinations
  • loss of vision
  • severe pain or pressure
  • white fluid or pus

Under-eye swelling is common. It typically goes away without treatment. In some cases, under-eye swelling can be a sign of infection or related to another health condition.

If your symptoms are severe or you’re unsure of the underlying cause, seek medical attention. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help prevent eye damage and other long-term complications.